One of the most unique attributes of Steamboat Springs is the fact that you can catch a world-class rainbow or brown trout right in the heart of downtown. Just grab a rod, walk to the river, and start fishing. It’s that easy. No maps, access fees (fishing license is required), private guides or long drives required. Of course, you can always hire a guide—and we’ve got some famous ones here in Steamboat—but if a quick fishing fix is on your Steamboat bucket list, then just mosey on down to the river, find a hole, and start casting.
In the last twenty years, the City of Steamboat Springs, along with fly-fishing clubs, local citizens, and Colorado Parks & Wildlife, has done massive habitat improvement projects on the Yampa River in Steamboat Springs and, as a result, has created one of the greatest “urban” fisheries in the state of Colorado. Just steps from the bars, restaurants, and shopping of downtown Steamboat, an angler can catch and release rainbow trout approaching 20 inches. And if streamer fishing is your thing, you may dredge up a brown trout that exceeds that magical 20-inch mark.
Right about this time of year as summer wanes into its second half, the river is low enough for easy wading. I like to fish the stretch of river between Rich Weiss Park and Fifth Street Bridge. Large check dams and scattered boulders hide deep and dark pools where large trout live. And the dense foliage along the banks provides for some solitude in an otherwise busy stretch of stream. It’s on this stretch that I like to break out my biggest and ugliest streamers, because the brown trout of the Yampa River are voracious meat eaters. And as they say, big fish like big flies.
If you’re looking for fishing glory, fish the holes in the river directly behind Yampa Avenue between Fifth and Ninth streets, where diners gather on the riverside patios of Sunpies, Aurum, Sake2U, and Sweet Pea restaurants. But you better know what you’re doing, because you’ll hear it from the peanut gallery if you don’t. Reeling in a big, homegrown trout on this stretch is a blast, and hearing the hoots and hollers from the spectators along the banks makes it all that much sweeter.